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H-1Bs lead to faster earnings growth for US workers: NFAP

The first study, based on visa data from 2005 to 2018, found that an increase in the share of workers with an H-1B visa within an occupation, on average, reduces the unemployment rate in that occupation. So, rather than adversely impact labour market opportunities for US workers, the H-1B program leads to faster earnings growth, it found.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 09.50 AM IST
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A large majority of the H-1B visa petitions are filed for computer occupation roles, pointing to the fact that there is still demand in the US for high tech skills.
PUNE: Hiring H-1B visa holders leads to higher earnings growth for US workers, new research by the National Foundation for American Policy showed.

Bringing in curbs on the immigrant visa program would result in jobs being offshored, rather than being filled locally, it found, harming US workers in the same segment.

A second study by the non-partisan, non-profit public policy research firm found that the rate of unemployment for computer occupations declined to 2.8% in April even as overall unemployment increased.

These studies have come at a time when US President Donald Trump is contemplating a ban on non-immigrant work visas, including the H-1B.

“The study’s findings show it makes little sense to impose new restrictions on H-1B visa holders, since doing so is likely to push more work out of the United States and harm U.S. workers,” said NFAP Executive Director Stuart Anderson.

Anderson served as executive associate commissioner for policy and planning and counsellor to the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Services in the George W. Bush administration.

The first study, based on visa data from 2005 to 2018, found that an increase in the share of workers with an H-1B visa within an occupation, on average, reduces the unemployment rate in that occupation. So, rather than adversely impact labour market opportunities for US workers, the H-1B program leads to faster earnings growth, it found.

“The fact that the H-1B program either improves job opportunities for U.S. workers or has no effect indicates that the program enables employers to hire foreign workers when they cannot hire U.S. workers. The alternative for many employers to using H-1B visas is not to hire more American workers but rather to hire more workers overseas,” said Madeline Zavodny, a Research Fellow at the NFAP and Professor of Economics at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville, who authored the study.

Another study on unemployment rates by NFAP found that the jobless rate for individuals in computer occupations declined from 3% in January 2020 to 2.8% in April 2020, while for other occupations it went up from 4.1% to 15%.

A large majority of the H-1B visa petitions are filed for computer occupation roles, pointing to the fact that there is still demand in the US for high tech skills.

During the 30-day period ending May 13, 2020, there were over 625,000 active job vacancy postings advertised online for jobs in common computer occupations, including those most common to H-1B visa holders, according to Emsi Job Posting Analytics.

So, it may be difficult for the Trump administration to bring in restrictions on the H-1B visa or the Optional Practical Training program for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students using unemployment data, it said.
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